IN CASE OF MONSTERS
When you were six, you used to have nightmares. Evil things that tried to take you, that hunted you down, that made you wake up shivering and screaming. You felt guilty to find you had woken your parents up with your screaming, and your mother didn't help with that feeling – she would look at you with the same look of scorn she looked at everything with, be annoyed with you for interrupting her peace.
Dad, however, would comfort you. He would let you sob about the bad things that wanted to hurt you, he would stroke your hair and tell you it was all just a dream, he would soothe you back to sleep with fairytales, where your nightmares did not win, where the Big Bad Wolf was chopped in two.
You doesn't think about the morbidity of being soothed by a death until years later.
You shudder when you're twelve-and-a-half and learn who the Big Bad Wolf is actually meant to be. It happens, you know that, if a girl wanders off with some strange man she might get in trouble. However, it makes you uncomfortable that this is a fairy story, one of the many things Dad used to say to you to comfort you after the nightmares you grew out of.
Rodney doesn't have nightmares like you used to. He's near six now, but he hasn't woken up screaming and crying at any point. You guess you were just a weird kid – hey, Rodney has his issues too. Your mother looks at him harsher than she looks at anything, she punishes him for anything. It's weird and kind of scary, but she slapped you the only time you asked why, so you don't push the subject. Dad tries to keep her from Rodney, to talk sense into her. It doesn't really work, but you like the fact he tries.
You had always wondered if the Big Bad Wolves in all fairytales were actually the same wolf, or relatives or something. It makes you wince, thinking of the three little piggies, trying to protect themselves. Metaphors are creepy and awkward, and you wonder if one day, you could be Little Red Riding Hood.
You shake the thought away, because you have a Wood Cutter.
You don't understand. You don't know how it could happen. You simply do not comprehend. It's just another nightmare. You'll wake up in a little and it won't be happening.
Two weeks ago, he was mayor. Respected. The good parent in your house. Everything was fine.
Now you're sitting across from Sheriff Lamb, who's grilling you over your father's activities. No, I didn't know. How could I know? He is unmoved by the tears in your eyes, and he keeps asking questions. About Dad, about Cassidy, about if Dad indicated anything about what happened to the bus, but in the end it all came back to did you know?
And you didn't know. How could you?
(Three little piggies; sitting in houses made from straw,)
He played you the recording. They raided the Casablancas house and found a copy with Cassidy's voice still on it. You hear a sort of hierarchy in their voices. Peter seems in charge; the determined one, the one who said what had to happen. It makes sense, from what you've heard about him – proud, bitter, self-righteous. It makes sense he wanted to make Dad pay most of all.
Marcos really just seems to be going along with Peter. It makes sense, given what you've heard about him – absolutely nothing. You guess he was just a quiet kid, you wonder if your Dad made him that way. You don't know, and it's not like you'll ever get a chance to ask.
Cassidy breaks your heart. You don't know why you didn't see it; you didn't know him very well, but you saw something was off since your slumber party back in November. The recording scares you, and you can hear the desperation in his voice. Of course he was desperate, there's no way he would have done it if he wasn't, but Peter and Marcos aren't listening. You want to back and beg them to hear, and you just don't understand how the boy you knew could have done that.
You don't understand much at all.
The nightmares start again.
You're not that surprised. Trauma and all that.
It's dark, where you are. You acknowledge you're lying on something, but you can't figure out what. Your eyes are glued shut, which may be contributing to the darkness.
Then there are hands.
Busy, needy hands, grabbing and groping and touching. You try and shrink away from them, but your body lies still, helpless. You here breathing and a squeak of movement on whatever-you're-lying on, and you try to call out for help. It doesn't work.
Then you find yourself awake, screaming your lungs out.
Your mother wanders to your room, looking just as annoyed as she did when you woke her up when you were six. You stare at her, now quiet, but shaking. You curl your knees up to your chest and realize you're waiting. Waiting for someone to come and comfort you, to stroke your hair and tell you fairytales.
Rodney wanders into view, and asks if you're okay.
You're still waiting for the Big Bad Wolf.
You consider death the day your mother checks Rodney into the hospital.
It would be easy, really. A few pills, water, a fall if you're feeling ironic, and it would be done. No more nightmares, no more monsters, no more big bad wolf.
You're mother is at least trying to do the right thing, which must be a first. You both need to know the truth, and you wish you could think it wouldn't be true. But of course, it's way too late for that.
You wonder what it would be like. Death. Would you make it into heaven? You can't really think of anything you did wrong, except for being an idiot about your Dad. Would heaven be like people imagined, harps and people sitting on clouds? You know if you went there, you wouldn't see your dad again, and Cassidy wouldn't make it – you're sure they're having a great time in hell. But what about the others? Peter and Marcos, everyone on that bus, that Curly guy? Hey, what about Lucky – creepy stalker, but he didn't molest or kill anyone.
Then again, suicide isn't really a good thing, so you guess if you did it, you wouldn't know who would be in heaven. You don't really want to go there, it sounds awkward.
So instead, you pour a bottle of peroxide over your head and know your mother is going to kill you for it later. You really don't care.
Surprisingly enough, so doesn't kill you – she doesn't really notice, because she just brought Rodney back with negative results. It must be the first time... ever you've seen her look happy, and you thank God for small mercies.
It doesn't seem like he hears you.
You can't even remember what the next nightmare was about. All you know is that it makes you wake up crying and yelling, sheets twisted around you. Your mother looks at you like she hasn't looked ever when you had your nightmares. She looks soft, pitying, comforting. She looks like a mother.
She looks like your father.
Rodney doesn't show up this time, and you guess you're grateful. Mom sits on your bed and you shrink away from her, trying to figure out how you can forget a dream that quickly. Your mother outstretches her arms in the first affectionate move you've ever seen her make, and you envy her. She's rebuilding and renewing – she's better.
You push her away, because you refuse to forgive her. Not for the way she treated you and Rodney, you could deal with that – but it's not fair that she gets to come out of this mess a better person, while you get to be terrorized each night.
She bites her lip when you withdraw, and you can see it in her eyes – it's too late. She leaves without another word, and you don't bother telling her why you're really angry.
She probably wouldn't get it.
You leave Rodney a note before you leave Neptune. You don't bother with your mother – you don't really know how she'll react. You don't want to. So you don't think about it, and not thinking about requires not leaving a note.
You can deal with Rodney, however. He'll cry. He'll miss you. Normal kid stuff.
The plane ride takes forever, and you keep expecting to be confronted by someone who recognizes you, who attacks you for what your father did, for what Cassidy did. No-one does, and you're really sick of feeling paranoid about people knowing you. You're sick of thinking people will blame you.
The plane soars into the clouds, like the royal couple dancing into the sky at the end of a Disney movie. You're back to the fairytale thing, and you try not to shake as you stare out the window.
Come off it, Little Red Riding Hood. "Happily ever after" doesn't mean anything, there were never any Wood Cutters and changing your hair can't change the world.
No-one is going to save you.